Every thing doesn't need to be a thing

My friend and podcast host Rachel was recently told me about a recommendation she received about the joy of drinking a glass of bourbon while in the shower.

This is, of course, a ridiculous idea. And it's indicative of something that seems to be gaining purchase in society that I would like to publicly take a stand against:

Making a thing out of every thing.

It's happening all around us. It must stop. 

Remember a time when guacamole was prepared in the restaurant's kitchen and delivered to your table by a member of the waitstaff rather than prepared at the table by a member of the kitchen staff, momentarily stifling conversation so you can watch someone do their job for reasons that are ultimately meaningless and slightly awkward?

Remember when weddings didn't require signature drinks named after the bride and groom?

Remember when children's birthday parties didn't end with overflowing goodie bags? 

Remember when soccer was played on fields within your town limits? Remember when terms like "travel soccer" and "weekend tournaments" had not yet been invented? Remember when hundreds of dollars were not spent on hotel rooms so kids can run around on a grassy field just like the one down the street from their home?

Remember when the word promposal didn't exist and you asked someone to the prom by asking them to the prom?

Remember when lattes were not canvases upon which baristas created art?

Remember a time before the use of the ubiquitous use of the word barista?

Every thing doesn't have to be a thing. It's getting ridiculous.

I am a person who prizes simplicity. Efficiency. Productivity. Minimalism. I despise ornamentation. Ostentatiousness. Unnecessary complexity and purposeless expense. I cannot stand when something is made precious that is not precious and was never meat to be precious.

A glass of bourbon in the shower is a stupid idea. Take your shower, get dressed, and then, if you want a glass of bourbon, drink one. Don't turn the act of washing your body into anything more than it is.

Get in. Get out. Get dressed.

Be happy that you're able to shower at all. More than half of the world's population still doesn't have access to hot water for showering on a daily basis. A shower is already a thing. It's an amazing thing. You don't need to add bourbon to the mix to make it any more precious than it already is.   

Guacamole being prepared at the table is ridiculous. We get excited about watching avocados being smashed before out eyes because we think it denotes an exceptional level of freshness and offers an artisanal flair.

It doesn't.

Having your guacamole prepared in the kitchen one minute earlier achieves the same damn thing and doesn't interrupt the conversation with a ridiculous, artificial, ultimately meaningless moment during dinner.

Promposals are atrocious. Teenagers perform and record these elaborate displays because they want attention. They want their prom to mean something more than it already does. They want the recording of their promposal to get more likes or views or shares than their friends' promposals.

There was a time - not so long ago - when a prom was a moment significant in its own right.

Actually, it still is. Teenagers just can't stop staring at YouTube long enough to realize it.  

Signature wedding drinks are created by caterers and bartenders who know that guests will consume these drinks in large amounts, thus allowing them to manage their inventory more effectively and maximize profits. Bride and grooms embrace the concept of  these signature drinks - sometimes spending hours deciding upon the name for each one - because they apparently don't think they are going to get enough attention on their wedding day. They've become such a thing that magazines and websites are now dedicated to the challenge of "perfecting the art of naming your signature drink."

It's an art now.

It's an art apparently capable of achieving perfection, despite the fact that a week after a wedding, no one could tell you the name of the bride and groom's signature drink. 

People love the art that baristas design in their lattes because everything about coffee has been fetishized in our culture. If anything in this world has ever been made into a thing, it is coffee. Drinking a cup of coffee is no longer a means of quenching a thirst or warming you up on a chilly day or injecting caffeine into the bloodstream or even drinking something that tastes good. Coffee has become a ritual for people. The coffee culture has taken something that was once small and simple into something of enormous import and great meaning. Coffee is no longer a warm, tasty beverage that people enjoy in the morning. It has become a means by which people define themselves. It has become a constant source of conversation. It is precious and artisanal and zen, and latte art reinforces these silly beliefs.   

Competing with coffee on the highest level of things being made into things are travel sports. Parents drive or fly their kids to soccer tournaments and swim meets and baseball games around the country because they believe that their children need to compete against the best of the best or be seen by the best coaches or because every other parent is bringing their kids to Timbuktu to play basketball this weekend and "my kid can't be left out!"

I hear from these "travel" kids all the time. Kids who travel from city to city, state to state to play baseball and soccer and swimming and hockey and basketball. They always tell me these four things:

  1. They don't care where they play or who they play. They just want to play.
  2. Their parents take sports way too seriously and are overly involved in their sporting life. 
  3. They worry about making the travel team only because of the enormous pressure they feel to play on the team or else be perceived as inferior by their peers. 
  4. They love travel sports not because of the games or the competition but because they love staying in hotel rooms and swimming in hotel pools.

We have turned this thing called youth sports into a thing. An enormous, expensive, ego-driven, parent-centered thing. A thing it was never meant to be and never needed to be. 

I'll say it again. Every thing doesn't need to be a thing.

Showers can just be soap and shampoo and water. 

Coffee can simply be a beverage.

Soccer can be a sport that kids play after school and on Saturdays on the field around the block or even across town.

Asking a girl or a boy to the prom can be a simple - albeit courageous - question posed privately after school. 

Every thing doesn't need to be a thing. We are all important enough already. Life is sufficiently complex. There is already great meaning in simple things if you pay attention. There is no need to make food or drink or sports or toddler birthday parties so ostentatious and grand that we garner undeserved meaning from them.

When a thing is made into a thing, it's usually done in an effort to bring false meaning to a process or undeserved attention to a person. Allow the thing to just be a thing. 

A shower without a glass bourbon has been relaxing and joyful experience for a long, long time. Don't add an alcoholic layer to the process in order to make it any more precious than it already is. Instead, pay attention to how precious and lovely and perfect it already is. See the beauty and meaning and import of the world as it already is.

Things are already things. See them as such. Embrace them for what they already are.  

Tableside preparation of guacamole is stupid. For many reasons.

I don't like avocados. As a result, I also don't like guacamole. So perhaps the following statements are tinged with bias.


Or perhaps I am more objective about this matter than your average guacamole enthusiast. 

Either way, I am hear to report that the recent trend in restaurants for waitstaff - armed with mortar and pestle - to make the guacamole right at the table (table-side seems to be the trendy word used to describe this service) is stupid. 

For reasons that I will never understand, people seem to love watching men and women smash avocados in a faux-volcanic mortar while they watch. They think of this as a special treat. An added bit of service. A pulling back of the curtain to get a view of the work normally done in the kitchen. They consider this a guarantee of freshness. A kissing cousin of the farm-to-table movement. 

It's none of these things. 

The way to determine if your guacamole is fresh is to taste it. If it tastes fresh, isn't that the only relevant data point to consider? If the guacamole made at your table tasted less-than-fresh but the nine day old frozen guacamole tasted fresh and delicious, which would you prefer?

In the end, it's it our tastebuds that make the determination of freshness?

And if you're concerned that the restaurant might serve you less-than-fresh guacamole, why did you choose the restaurant in the first place? Do you normally eat in restaurants that you don't trust? 

And what about the rest of the food, being prepared somewhere in the depths of the kitchen? How are you guaranteeing its freshness?

In addition, the making of guacamole table-side is actually detrimental to your dining experience, for two reasons:

1. While the person makes the guacamole at your table, conversation often comes to a grinding halt. Your attention is drawn to the mortar and pestle, and it's suddenly like watching the Food Network instead of spending time in conversation with friends.

I hate it. 

2. The poor restaurant worker turned performance artist who must stand at your table and make your guacamole could be more productive if he or she were in the kitchen, making a larger batch of guacamole for everyone who has ordered the foul substance. Instead, the restaurant either hires multiple guacamole makers (requiring them to raise prices), temporarily strips the kitchen of a chef (slowing down food preparation), or forces you to wait for guacamole until the waitstaff is finished making guacamole for tables 7 and 9.


Years ago, I went to dinner with a girlfriend and her friends. Between courses, the waiter wiped the tablecloth clean with a small, white scraper. When he left, one of the women leaned in and whispered, "That's what makes this place fancy."

Forget the tastiness of the food or the promptness of service. It was the use of a small bit of plastic - a bauble - that impressed her. 

crumb scraper.png

Table-side guacamole is a bauble. It's unnecessary and purposeless ostentation. It's an unneeded and unappreciated interruption. it's the illusion of special or fancy.

It's stupid. Make the food in the kitchen. Bring it to the table when it's ready. I'll be busy chatting with friends.